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June 21, 2012 at 1:43 PM

Full transcript of coach Sigi Schmid’s pre-Portland conference call

schmid kc.jpgPhoto credit: Bettina Hansen, The Seattle Times

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid held a 15-minute conference call with reporters from Seattle and Portland on Thursday afternoon. He discussed everything from the rivalry to Steve Zakuani to the stadiums to rumors of FC Kaiserslautern midfielder Christian Tiffert.

Here is the full transcript:

* * *

(What’s it like to be involved with rivalry games? Is it more pressure or more fun?) “It’s just more fun. I like it because it just enhances the experience, because there’s so much value on the result of the game. The value is to all the Seattle supporters and the supporters of the Portland Timbers team, as well. It’s very important to them, but it’s equally (important to us).”

(How would you describe this rivalry to someone who hasn’t heard about it?) “I think it’s the best rivalry in the league. I know other people are saying there are better rivalries and so forth, but I don’t think there’s a better rivalry in the league. … There’s definitely a lot of pride at stake for each of the cities and as a result it’s a game that brings out the uppermost emotions for all the players.”

(What will it be like coaching against Mike Fucito?) “It’s going to be different definitely having Mike on the other side, because he’d been on our side of it for a number of years. Seeing him in the green of Portland is going to be definitely different because I know he still has good friends on our team and there are guys that he stays in contact with. But once you put the shirt on and once the game begins, he’s going to be fully committed to their efforts and we’re going to be fully committed against him.”

(What concerns you most about the Timbers?) “They’re a team with quality players. Kris Boyd is a quality goal-scorer. He’s scored goals for a number of years … and he’s finding his footing right now in our league, but he’s been dangerous pretty consistently in games. Darlington Nagbe continues to improve for sure. They’ve added Danny Mwanga, so that gives them a little bit more of a more powerful look up front because he’s also a good-sized forward — a little bit different from when they had Perlaza. When a team is as hungry as Portland is right now, because the season hasn’t gone as well as I’m sure they would’ve hoped at this point, and for us right now the games aren’t going as we would’ve hoped, so I think it’s two teams that are very eager to get a good result.”

(How do you handle preparation for this game within this busy stretch?) “We’ve had to do that so often this season and in years past. This is part of a seven games in 21 days for us, I think. So we don’t get a lot of breaks in terms of that, the scheduling, and so we’re going to prepare for the Portland game. We’re going to look at who’s healthy, who’s able to go, who’s prepared to go. Then after that game we’ll look at the next one. We sort of look at them as independent things. We’re hoping to get a little healthier, so we’ll see through training in the next couple of days as to whether we can add some guys into our roster of 18 who haven’t been in the 18 for a while, so that’s something we’re looking forward to.”

(Any chance Steve Zakuani might be on the pitch on Sunday?) “We’ll see. We’ll see. Again, like I said, it’s a situation of we’ve got to see the health of the other players. Obviously we had some key guys go out with injuries and that opened up a spot on the bench and it made sense to have Zakuani on there last night, but each game is a separate decision.”

(Does the six-game winless streak add more pressure Sunday or is that even possible with the rivalry game?) “I think this game has its own unique value to it. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a winning streak, a losing streak, if you’re doing well, not doing well — the game just has its own value and it’s a result that’s independent of how you’re doing in your other games just because of the intensity of the rivalry and the importance that it has to our supporters. So for us it’s an important game. We made a step forward last night, played a lot better against Kansas City than we did against Montreal, and we need to continue to do that.”

(Did that first Open Cup game in 2009 open up your eyes to what the rivalry was?) “When you have Brian Schmetzer as your assistant coach, you sort of realize right away that it’s bigger. Brian is somebody who’s been involved in these games for a long time being Seattle homegrown and his appreciation of the rivalry goes all the way to his own youth playing days. So Brian made me pretty aware of how special it was. I knew the proximity of the cities. I know it’s hard to believe maybe for the Seattle fans, but I do have some friends in Portland. There are some people that I’ve talked to. My cousin actually lives in the state of Oregon. I’ve been involved with the USC-UCLA thing years ago with UCLA and I know the intensity of that rivalry, so I sort of had a feeling of what it would be like. Then when we went into that game in 2009 it fulfilled everything that I was feeling. It didn’t fail. It wasn’t like you came out of that game and said, ‘Oh, it really isn’t as big as I thought it might be.’ If anything, it was bigger than I thought it would be. But it pretty much fulfilled it’s expectations.”

(Is it tough to find the right moment to bring Zakuani back coming after such a long recovery?) “It had less to do with Zakuani’s length of injury or coming back. I just thought the game last night, the referee really didn’t have control of the game; there was a lot of extracurricular activities going on off the ball that weren’t called. To put Steve into that sort of game I didn’t think was going to be a good situation because there was a lot of reckless abandon, let me put it that way, when people went into tackles. It wasn’t so much a reflection of where Steve was at. It was more a reflection of the game. It’s not a case of the game being aggressive or physical and that part; he’s not going to shy away from that. I’m not worried about it in that sort of game, but I thought it was a game that to be quite honest had gotten out of control.”

(Given Roger Levesque’s history in the rivalry, is he someone you’d like to get into the game Sunday?) “Roger has a very unique history in terms of the series. He’s a player that’s always prepared to play, so having Levesque involved is probably thing for us.”

(Is there a difference coaching a game at Jeld-Wen Field vs. CenturyLink Field?) “It’s a little bit of a difference, for sure. The obvious one is whether you’re home or whether you’re away. The other thing is the field is a little bit smaller. It plays smaller, so as a result the game becomes a little more around duels and battles for loose balls sometimes than it would be on our field, because our field is a little bit bigger. I think our fans are pretty close to the field, as well, although because it’s a bigger stadium it maybe doesn’t feel quite as intimate as it does at Jeld-Wen. But I think both atmospheres are outstanding. Home and away is probably the major difference — that they’ve got more fans there and maybe they’re going to be a little bit louder, so you have to be ready for that.”

(Can you address the Christian Tiffert rumors?) “Every team at this point is always looking at players. It’s the transfer window, so you’re always looking at players and seeing if something makes sense to you. He’s a player that obviously his club has indicated he probably will not be returning … and he’s exploring options. Have we settled or anything like that? No. At this stage everything is still exploratory.”

(Is he in town for a physical?) “He’s not doing a medical or anything like that.”

(How has it been shuffling goalkeepers?) “It’s a little bit of juggle obviously with Gspurning’s injury, which has taken longer than we thought it would. But it’s something that’s very uncommon, so we just have to give it the time it needs and not push it a little bit too quickly. We thought Bryan Meredith did well when he came in and struggled a little bit more of late. Weber was injured early on and now he’s over his injury, so they continue to compete. We’re very confident in Andrew Weber and we’re very confident in Bryan Meredith.”

(What does Alex Caskey provide and how is the midfield different with him on the wing instead of Alvaro Fernandez?) “Alex is a different player. He’s got very quick feet. He’s done very well for us this year and he also has a very good shot from distance. He almost beat Nielsen last night on a volley from about 25. He’s somebody that adds that dimension of long-range shooting to our team, which is not so much a strength of Fernandez. When he’s playing wide midfield we play it a little bit differently than when Flaco plays wide midfield, but we think he helps our possession and he’s pretty honest with his work rate offensively and defensively, as well. Mainly it’s his quick feet and his shooting from distance that helps.”

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